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April 23, 2014
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Developer makes ‘The Case for Glenwood Ridge’

“Glenwood Springs needs housing,” and the proposed mix of 413 mostly modest-size homes offered with the Glenwood Ridge project is one developer’s answer to filling that need, a recent 16-page “white paper” that was submitted to city planners argues.

“We are a vibrant center of tourism, government and commerce finally seeing the signs of a reinvigorated economy and a dearth of housing inventory to maintain this positive momentum,” the project’s proponents state in the paper given to the Glenwood Springs Planning and Zoning Commission late last week.

“Now is the time to encourage our recovery with quality, well-considered plans and projects that do not waste available opportunities with large lot sprawl,” the project team, led by Elk Meadows Properties representative Gary Menzel of Florida, suggests.

Titled “The Case for Glenwood Ridge,” the paper was prepared in response to some of the questions and criticisms that have been raised as the Glenwood Springs Planning and Zoning Commission continues its review of the 506-acre annexation and development that is proposed to be located 1.5 miles south of the existing city limits up Four Mile Road.

Countering the developer’s arguments, though, is a new fiscal impact analysis prepared by a city consultant suggesting the new development, while meeting a latent demand for housing, would also cost the city about $2.4 million annually at project build-out in 15 to 20 years.

Public comment at the three P&Z hearings so far, much of it from residents of the Four Mile corridor and south Glenwood Springs neighborhoods off Midland Avenue, has also been mostly opposed to the project.

Questions about density, loss of rural character along the Four Mile corridor, increased traffic, wildlife concerns and city infrastructure impacts have led some to suggest the matter should ultimately be decided by city voters at an election.

The P&Z hearing was continued following another four-plus hours of testimony Tuesday and will resume with back-to-back meetings on June 3 and 4. P&Z is expected to make a recommendation at that time, though City Council is not scheduled to hear the proposal until July 17.

The case

Elk Meadows proposes to turn the former Bershenyi and Martino ranches, situated on either side of Four Mile Road just beyond the existing Four Mile Ranch, into a series of three connected residential neighborhoods.

The project would include a mix of 225 single-family detached houses and 188 multi-family units, including duplexes, townhouses and condominiums covering about 13 percent of the larger 506-acre site.

The developer also proposes to dedicate 1,140 acres in what’s known as the upper Bershenyi Ranch to the city for open space or a primitive, limited access mountain park.

If the city doesn’t want to take it, Colorado Parks and Wildlife has expressed an interest in accepting the land dedication, Menzel said in a followup interview on Wednesday.

In addition, the plan includes a 16.7-acre ball park complex as part of the project. And, in recognition of the traffic impact, the developer has offered to build a roundabout at the Midland Avenue/Four Mile Road intersection, at an estimated cost of around $2.5 million.

“What’s getting lost in this process is the very thorough process that the city went through to amend its comprehensive plan,” Menzel said in reference to the city’s 2010 amendment to its primary long-term planning guide.

That revised plan extended the city’s suggested “urban growth boundary” to include the ranch lands now proposed for development, and designated the area for a future planned unit development such is now being proposed, he said.

“I believe, in fact I know, that what we are proposing meets the housing needs of Glenwood Springs, both in terms of pricing and housing type,” Menzel said.

The white paper also points to a 2005 housing study that suggested the city would need to add about 2,885 additional houses before 2015 to keep up with demand.

Though the national recession in 2008 and resulting downturn in the local real estate market lessened that demand, the demand for small-lot houses with an envisioned price range of $225,000 to $600,000 is picking back up, Menzel and the project’s other proponents say.

“Large lot subdivisions with strict architectural controls are appropriate on a limited basis to meet a certain segment of the local real estate market,” the white paper acknowledges. “But these types of subdivisions have proven to create expensive lots and unattainable homes for relatively few, and appear to be ineffective in housing Glenwood Springs’ workforce.”

Costs debated

The city’s fiscal consultant, Gabe Preston of RPI Consulting, does note in his analysis that there is a limited supply of just 106 vacant residential lots in Glenwood Springs.

However, there are 500 vacant subdivision lots of half an acre or less within five miles of the city, and another 742 lots that size between five and 10 miles away, Preston’s report says.

In his analysis, about one-third of current Glenwood Springs households could afford the lower-priced units proposed at Glenwood Ridge, he said.

Ultimately, the proposed development would create an operational deficit for the city in order to meet the new demand for city services, Preston concluded.

“This decision is as much an investment decision as it is a land-use decision,” he said at the Tuesday P&Z meeting. “That’s not to say it’s not OK, or that it’s a bad investment. It’s just that these kinds of decisions have to be carefully weighed, because residential development does cost money.”

However, a fiscal impact consultant for the developer, Ford Frick of BBC Research and Consulting in Denver, poked holes in Preston’s analysis, saying he didn’t adequately weigh the likely increase in revenues associated with the development compared to the costs.

“You have to get the revenues in there in proportion to the costs,” said Frick, who is preparing a written response to Preston’s conclusions to be presented at the June 3 meeting.


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The Post Independent Updated Apr 23, 2014 10:43PM Published Apr 23, 2014 07:00PM Copyright 2014 The Post Independent. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.